Get creative for safe festive holidays

by Mick Rhodes |

Typically we head into the holidays making plans to gather with family and friends. But 2020 is no typical year.

The novel coronavirus is currently spiking beyond all previous spring highs, and many Claremonters are concerned primarily about keeping themselves and their families safe.

The truth is many of our rituals are just not going to happen this year. Pictures of the kids with Santa at the indoor mall? Out. Festivals and theme parks? Closed.

The following is a guide to safe holiday activities, food options, and a primer on connecting with family and friends online.


Restrictions on Gathering

Los Angeles County, like most of the state, remains in the purple tier, representing the most restrictive stage of COVID-19 precaution.

The current COVID-19 health order from The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which is in effect from November 30 through December 20, prohibits gathering with anyone outside of your immediate household.

Further Scroogifying the holidays, county health also recommends against caroling. Yes, the tradition of knocking on neighbors’ doors and serenading them with holiday songs is on the naughty list this year. There’s simply no way to assure uniform social distancing on porches and at front doors, and one never knows if the people answering the door will be wearing masks, which is still the most effective everyday method of helping to prevent the virus’ spread.

So how are we to create a holiday experience that is both festive and safe? We are all going to need to get creative.


Connecting and Celebrating Safely

Much has been written since March—pro and con—about gathering virtually through Zoom. And though nothing can substitute for the real thing, this is probably the easiest, safest way to feel connected to friends and family.

If you’re unfamiliar with the platform, you can find tips on getting started here, or ask any 9-year-old in the general vicinity. Other options include FaceTime if you have an Apple device, Google Duo if you use an Android device, or Skype.  

Some suggestions for fun holiday activities allowed by the county include online tree trimming and holiday parties; physically distanced car parades, drive-by or drive-through events; and movie nights and live music performances at drive-in theaters, such as the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair.

And while it may not be bubbling over with holiday cheer, and could well be accompanied by an expletive or nine, staying at home offers a good opportunity to finally get that garden planted, room painted, or fence repaired. There will likely be no time like right now, with everyone home, to do those home improvement projects. Families may learn they work well together. Or not. Either way, it feels good to spruce up the place.


Traveling if You Must

Though Gov. Newsom says non-essential travel is not recommended, and the LACDPH agrees, people are clearly ignoring this edict. Airports and highways weren’t as jammed as usual over the Thanksgiving holiday, but they were bustling.

“Because travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick,” says LA County Health. “If it’s not essential for you to travel, it’s best for you to postpone your trip. And if you’re sick or have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, you shouldn’t travel.”

But if you do choose to travel, please be sure to do it as safely as possible. LA County Health recommends that travelers quarantine for 14 days when arriving home after travel.

Legitimate travel includes for medical needs, essential business needs, or to take care of after-death arrangements. Before you leave, you should find out if the area you plan to visit is a COVID hot spot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website has a county-by-county view of various COVID metrics, including total cases, cases per 100,000, positivity rates, and changes within the previous seven days.

In an effort to physically distance their passengers, many airlines are not selling middle seats, except for families or groups traveling together. But some carriers are inexplicably still filling up their planes. Be sure to check ahead of time before you purchase tickets to be sure you will be safe. You can find out which airlines are rated safest here.

If you do travel by air, you should always wear a mask from the time you arrive at the airport, to the moment you are indoors at your destination, avoid crowded walkways, trams and elevators, and travel with plenty of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Traveling by car also involves risk. To avoid the wrong kind of transmission, carry non-perishable food and drinks in your car, plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and of course, extra masks.

If you must stay in a hotel, wear a mask at all times outside your room, avoid crowded hallways and elevators, wipe every common surface in your room down with disinfectant wipes, and just to be safe, bring your own pillow. Even though it’s weird.

More general safety tips, including for hotels, are listed here.  


Food Delivery and Grocery Shopping

We are once again dependent on take-out and delivery, as both indoor and outdoor dining is prohibited, with the exception of Pasadena and Long Beach, both of which have their own independent health departments and at press time were doing their own thing.

If you’re going to pick up food, be sure to wear your mask and use hand sanitizer. It’s safest to toss or recycle the restaurant packaging and use your own utensils and plates, if possible. If not, it’s smart to wash your hands vigorously with soap and warm water before and after your meal.

Alternatively you can have your food delivered, either directly from a restaurant or through a service such as Grub Hub, Postmates, DoorDash or Uber Eats.

You can still have groceries delivered through several services, the most popular of which is Instacart. Wal-Mart also delivers, as does Target. Amazon also sells groceries, but be sure to check the site first because it doesn’t deliver food everywhere.
If you must go out to purchase food, treat the event with the same caution as you would any travel outside the home: wear your mask, use hand sanitizer, stay six-feet apart from all other shoppers and employees, and wash your hands vigorously with soap and warm water after you get home.

The latest accurate and reliable local coronavirus info can be found at


Up-to-Date COVID-19 Information

Dependable statewide info is available from the California Department of Public Health at

For COVID-related questions, the Los Angeles County information help line is available 24-hours-a-day by dialing 2-1-1.

Finally, if you are sick, or you have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms, you should stay home, away from others, and get tested.


There’s Always Next Year

With any luck, we’ll be back to turkey smoking recipes and where to find the best light displays for next year’s holiday guide. In the meantime, please stay safe. If we all do our part, we may finally be able to gather safely next year, and the kids can tell the extended family about those new curse words dad taught them.


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